This was the big one... the day to end all days. If this was a Tour .. this would be the Queen's stage... the most anticipated... the hardest... the one that would see some break and others sieze the day! Just over 80 miles and 8750ft to climb. .. over 2000ft more than any other day.
I packed up and was out door... to hopefully find an open cafe... and luck was on my side. It was just as well because it was a good 50 miles before the first cafe... and that was after the Haast Pass through the mountains... so I needed food and supplies. Both sorted... and the rain now falling heavily... I put on all waterproof layers (jacket only) and set off. Damn it was cold. Half tempted to stop and put the leg warmers on I decided not to because may be glad of them being dry later so ploughed on regardless.
The rain was hammering down and I was soon very wet... wet feet... arms... shorts... completely soaked through. The real climbing wouldnt start for 20 miles but there was no shortage of ups.... winding round the foothills with the river as a guide... often far below. There were flat sections and fortunately the tailwind on these short bits meant my legs werent completely dead just yet. .. in fact they were completing the climbs pretty well... but I was very aware that the real climbing had not yet begun.
Mount Aspiring national Park came up next. Unfortunately the cloud and the rain meant there wasnt much to see. Not that I was in an appreciative frame of mind. My feet were now numb with cold... my hands close to the same. Whenever I stopped there was nowhere to shelter so every now and again I stuffed a tracker bar down and a few sweets and a gulp of water... and set off as quickly as possible.
The worst bit being the wet shorts sticking to the legs until I got going again.
I could see how Mount Aspiring would be stunning in nice weather... the river was a glacial blue/grey in the valley below and high rock walls ran next to the road... well above the river at times... All the foothills that I could see were covered in dense green bush.. and mist and rain and cloud so that mostly just an outline was visable.
Battling the rain and the cold meant my reserves... both mentally and physically were close to zero... I had daydreams about thumbing a lift... but didnt stop near any laybys in case I gave in. I was so cold I had some concern about hypothermia... especially as the road started to wind upwards on a more permanent basis instead of the up and down.
I was concerned about time... it was already half ten and the real climbing was just beginning. Flashbacks to the Rimatuka Hill came and went... it cant be that bad ... can it??
The main problem was that I didnt know what I was really facing... it could be another Rimatuka... it could be worse... it could be better... the mind conjoured up scenarios of me still climbing the pass at 4 or 5pm... then what?? Being wet and very cold made it clearly worse and then I passed through the Gate of Haast (gate of hell more like) which signified the start of the proper climbing. 15-20% in places I reckon... with an escape hill on the opposite side of the road... (that tells you how bad it was!).. and gears that were slipping drove me to the very edge of breaking point. I was absolutely certain I wasnt going to be able to finish today... ..
You may not believe how close I was to stopping.. or how desperately I wanted to sit down and close my eyes... be warm and dry at home... or how the tears ran down my face in frustration at myself for being weak...
But something kicked in... and I honestly dont know what it was.... it just kept the pedals turning... even as the thoughts of quitting were shouting to me... the pedals kept turning. If I stopped... I started up again...
I kept going up... so slowly as it was still very steep... then downhill... then another steep climb.... and another...
I couldnt see out of my glasses further than the next foot of tarmac... but maybe that helped...
The steep climbs kept coming... with a little downhill in between... which served to freeze me solid... until I saw a sign... Haast pass... 564m. I had bloody done it. Well... got this far anyway. Shivering I stuffed down more fruit bar things and prepared for a very cold descent. My aim... the cafe.. in 20 miles... It was mainly downhill with a bit of flat and the mountains started slowly receding into the background... the rain slowed to a trickle and some warm air found me!
Suddenly anything seemed possible.. There are no frontiers that we cant cross...
The twenty miles to the cafe were pretty pleasant... with the rain going... a tailwind at times and the scenery becoming more visable... the world seemed a better place.
I sped that 20 miles and found myself at the cafe at 13:40. Much better time than I dared to hope or thought realistic... given how id felt going up. But I had conquered the Haast pass in pretty awful weather and emerged with a quiet satisfaction that I hadnt given up even though every fibre in my body screamed for me to do so...
After lunch it was a short drop down to Lake Wanaka and the sun was out... I was quickly drying off and removed my rainjacket to allow other layers to wind dry.
Lake Wanaka... a beautiful blue... ringed with mountains (the peaks of the tallest still hidden by cloud... words cannot describe the beauty other than how it penetrated the soul to leave it bewildered.
The road wound round the lake neither rising or falling steeply... leaving me with energy to spare to gaze at it as I wound round it. Then the road started climbing sgain... i could see it in the distance make a break for the gap in the hills to jump over to Lake Hawea. It was warm now and I had found my climbing legs...
Lake Hawea appeared into view only after I had climbed The Neck... 400 and something feet and it was just as spectacular... only more so ... as it signalled that I would make it tonight. 5 miles to go and they were some of the prettiest... running alongside the Lake in all its glory... Up and down of course... and one absolute bugger of a climb... just to finish me off and twist the knife in a little. To add insult to injury... I was overtaken by a bunch of clowns... !! Literally as the circus was in town and kept passing me on the road!
Drying off as I 'sped along' (everything is relative) I wondered what the car drivers thought as they went from a to b when they saw me. Did they even notice at all??
Soon Hawea.. the town came into view. Never been quite so happy to see a little town.. so I crossed the bridge to the first... amd only hotel... fully booked. The kind lady 'phoned a friend' and sent me to see Bev... (It was at this point that I fell asleep whilst blogging last night!)
And I was soon ensconsed in a nice room with a hell of a view of the lake... a loo with a view... my cycling clothes in a washing machine and on my way to get dinner at the cafe down the road.
The young lad serving me reminded me of my step son with his inability to finish off a sentence with anything other than 'sweet' and the burger and chips were pretty good but was too tired to finish them.
Back to Bev's and was soon crashed out.. unable to finish this blog I was so tired.
I came close to breaking point yesterday but whatever saw me through meant I am still on schedule and battling to get to the end. I cannot do it without your support.
A massive thank you to everyone who has shared the posts... messaged me and commented on the posts. And an even bigger thank you to everyone who has sponsored me so far... www.justgiving.com/GoWithTheCrazy.